When team president Phil Jackson drafted Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis in June, the message was clear: The reconstruction is on. Porzingis, 20, has Dirk Nowitzki--like skills, but it will be at least three years before he fully develops them. By that time Carmelo Anthony will be a shadow of his All-Star self. Anthony is 31 and coming off an injury to his left knee that sidelined him for two months in 2014--15. And after New York whiffed (again) on the big names in free agency—guard Arron Afflalo and center Robin Lopez amounted to consolation prizes—you have to wonder: What's the point of keeping Carmelo?
There isn't one. When the Knicks re-signed Anthony to a five-year, $124 million deal in 2014, there was logic to it. Capped out, they could only throw money at their own players, and they weren't willing to let a talent like Anthony just walk away, not when he can be a trade chip later. Anthony's trade value is high; he's not a No. 1 option on a title contender, but he could thrive in a supporting role. (Hello, Chicago!) Swapping him could further infuse the roster with young talent and draft picks while alleviating the pressure to win right away. Rather than scrambling to squeeze into the playoffs now, the Knicks can patiently develop Porzingis, a potentially devastating inside-out scorer, and shrewdly gain cap flexibility to add the right pieces around him. Jackson can show the New York faithful that he knows how to build a winner, not buy one.
A rival scout sizes up New York
From what I can tell, Kristaps Porzingis was the best player they could get at [the No. 4] pick. But they lost out in free agency. They brought Phil Jackson in for a reason: to get involved with the top-tier players. They ended up signing third-tier players. Arron Afflalo's coming off a bad year in Portland. Sasha Vujacic has been in Europe for the last four years. Robin Lopez, Kevin Seraphin, Kyle O'Quinn—I just don't see it.... I was not impressed with Derek Fisher last season. He knows the triangle, but he was one of the poorer coaches in the league in timeouts, ATOs, end-of-game plays, that kind of stuff.... The big question is whether Carmelo Anthony can play within the triangle. It's an equal opportunity offense: sharing the ball, moving side to side. Melo might be the best one-on-one scorer in the league, but those are things he's never been good at.... My gut feeling is that halfway through the season—I don't want to say they drop [the triangle], but they'll start to use more NBA sets, more floor spacing, a little more screening. The name of the game is to win, and New York is a very tough place with very sophisticated fans.... They brought in Vujacic because he knows the system, and they'll probably look to him to show how the offense is supposed to be run.... Of all the guys in the frontcourt, O'Quinn has the most upside. He's athletic, he's long, he can rebound. He's either going to make a splash or he's going to be a third-string center for the rest of his career.... We talk about the triangle, but they really needed to get better on defense. Did they? I don't think so.
COACH DEREK FISHER
(2nd season with Knicks)
2014--15 RECORD 17--65
(5th in Atlantic)
PG JOSE CALDERON
9.1 PPG; 4.7 APG; 41.5 FG%; 41.5 3FG%
SG ARRON AFFLALO*
13.3 PPG; 3.2 RPG; 42.4 FG%; 35.4 3FG%
SF CARMELO ANTHONY
24.2 PPG; 6.6 RPG; 44.4 FG%; 34.1 3FG%
PF DERRICK WILLIAMS*
8.3 PPG; 2.7 RPG; 0.1 BPG; 44.7 FG%
C ROBIN LOPEZ*
9.6 PPG; 6.7 RPG; 1.4 BPG; 53.5 FG%
PG LANGSTON GALLOWAY
11.8 PPG; 4.2 RPG; 3.3 APG; 39.9 FG%
PF KRISTAPS PORZINGIS (R)
11.0 PPG; 4.6 RPG; 49.6 FG%; 35.9 3FG%
SF CLEANTHONY EARLY
5.4 PPG; 2.5 RPG; 0.9 APG; 35.5 FG%
*NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE, EUROPEAN STATS
Rebounds for Robin Lopez last season with the Trail Blazers. That's 56 more than any Knick had—and Lopez grabbed his in just 59 games.
NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
HELLO, MELO Not even a healthy Anthony could salvage a disastrous season: New York was just 10--30 when its star played.